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Rooted Growing Branching

ESMC Church Building

From a write-up for Doors Open Waterloo in 2012

Our building (or at least a large part of it) is more than 110 years old (1902).

What did that first building look like?

Parts are visible from the outside and there are photos downstairs in the hall
opposite the library.

The almost-one-acre property was transferred for one dollar from Samuel S. (Sr.) and Elizabeth (Reist) Snider in a deed drawn up on March 15, 1902. Formerly called the David Eby Congregation, at a meeting on June 25, 1902, a motion was passed to change the name to Waterloo Mennonite Church. The first service in the new church was held August 17, 1902.


Charles Moogk, builder and architect, created the plan ($40). Contractor John Letter laid the foundation ($800) after men from the congregation excavated the site using horse-drawn scrapers. Enough good clean sand wasfound during the excavation to mix mortar for the bricklaying (75,000 bricks: $471.70). Other costs were: lumber $48.89; carpentry and framing $1440; pews $350 (believed to be the ones in use today);  painting $111; carpets $30; wiring and lighting fixtures $85. In 1903, 37 spruce trees were planted ($6.29), some of which stood until the 1990s.

The new church had many differences from the ca. 1851 brick meetinghouse at the corner of Erb Street West and Fischer-Hallman Road (where church cemetery is located): single, double-door entrance for both men and women; large fanlight above the front door and a circular window high above that; curved, decorated pews instead of plain benches; linear rows of seats instead of the squared C-shape seating arrangement; tall, narrow and deeply arched windows; high ceiling; electric instead of coal-oil lamps; furnace in the basement instead of a wood stove in the sanctuary. Indeed, the basement itself was a new feature. Additional features of the new church were separate entrances at the rear for men and women and buggy landings at both.


Where one enters the sanctuary today is where the front door was originally situated. On either side were small rooms which served as cloakrooms for men and women. Stairs leading to the basement were in this area.

A vertical panel, referred to as the “fence” or “divider” marked the separation between the men’s and women’s seating. It was placed up the middle of the long centre set of pews. Two main aisles were on either side of the centre set of pews. The handsome wainscoting that you see has been preserved since 1902. The pulpit platform projected out into the sanctuary from a flat and unbroken south wall. On the west wall ticked an old clock. (Was it used to time sermons perhaps?) The recessed space at the centre ofthe south wall, currently  occupied by the pulpit platform, organ pipes and the narrow hallway behind these, is original to the 1902 structure and must have been part of the south cloakrooms. The room behind the piano did not exist before 1950; in its place had been a buggy landing.

The double doors now on the west wall in the pulpit alcove had been on the east wall and were used for bringing caskets into and out of the church for funerals. (The move and slight modification of those double doors and frames is a piece of information that will be lost over time.) Look up and see the pair of large, ornamental ventilation  screens gracing the ceiling today as they did in 1902. The main section of the building measured approximately 35 feet wide by 60 feet long.


An indoor toilet was provided for women in the basement, tucked under one of the stairs. Men used an outdoor privy for many years. Children in Sunday school gathered around the furnace, sharing space  with a big wood pile. At the south end was a simple, closed-off kitchen with a wood stove and corner cupboard.

Driving sheds from the old church site were moved to the new one and set up behind the building. Some remained standing and in use for events like Summer Bible School until after the 1940s.



1949 – 1950 – Changes lengthened the sanctuary by 25%. The new front portion added about 16 feet to the Erb Street side giving it the look you see today. Much of the original brick outer wall was removed and the large wooden folding doors set on a track were installed. They continue to be used and useful. At the rear (south) of the church a small room was built to serve as a pastor’s study. A nursery or mothers’ room was installed above the lobbies.

1978 – 1980 – The church purchased the triplex apartment next door and connected to it by a linking structure. It added the lounge (J. B. Martin Room), pastor’s office and reception area, plus more offices and a boardroom (David Eby Room).

2001 – 2002 – As part of the 150 anniversary of the congregation, a renovation and addition were completed. Most of the building was affected in some way and interesting discoveries were made in old, seldom-used closets! We gained a new entrance foyer, an expanded lounge (J. B. Martin Room), washrooms and office spaces.


1949 – 1950 – Washrooms and a new kitchen were installed.

1978 – 1980 – The fellowship hall was extended.

2001 – 2002 – A new kitchen, library, classrooms and washrooms were added.


1977-78 – The enclosed ramp and entrance were completed. It was used as the main entrance until 2002.


It is located on the south-east corner of Erb Street West and Fischer-Hallman Road. The 1851 deed for two roods of land (one half acre), sold to the church for seven pounds ten shillings by David and Elizabeth Eby, stated that the land wasto be used for a “meetinghouse and burying ground.” In 1880, David and Elizabeth’s son David B. and his wife Lydia (Bowman) Eby sold an additional acre adjoining the original property for one hundred dollars.

Now surrounded by the city, the cemetery is an oasis in the midst of noisy traffic and busy malls. That small parcel of land is all that remains to suggest something of the pastoral crossroads of 1851, a time when the setting thereabouts was acre upon acre of cultivated fields, a few farm buildings, wood lots, and a new brick meetinghouse.